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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Maurice Freedman

Aired June 16, 2003 - 20:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you have a child in the house, you probably already know this. The new Harry Potter book comes out on Saturday and it is sure to be a instant best-seller. It already is.
First printing of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is a whopping 8.5 million books. Worldwide sales of J.K Rowling's four previous books in the Harry Potter series tops more than 190 million books.

Not everyone loves the precocious wizard and his magical pals. There are some muggles out there. The Harry Potter series tops the American Library Association's list of books that various groups want to be banned from library shelves.

What kind of muggle would want to do that, you ask? Joining us now to talk about all this, Maurice Freedman, president of the American Library Association.

Thanks for being with us. What is it about Harry Potter? I mean, people say Harry Potter has ignited kids' love of reading. I mean, 190, you know, million copies sold.

MAURICE FREEDMAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSN.: Absolutely. The books are magical and the kids love it and...

COOPER: What's the criticism of it?

FREEDMAN: The criticism is that they're filled with wizardry and sorcery and apparently the religious right and many evangelical organizations have a lot of problem with that and they say it's hostile to their family, it's not family friendly, and yet there's people on the religious right also who think it's family friendly.

COOPER: Well I think....

FREEDMAN: They can't agree among themselves.

COOPER: There's some controversy. They're not even sure. Yes.

And certainly, it's not going hurt sales. I mean, this thing is already going to be huge -- worldwide phenomenon.

FREEDMAN: At this point, someone attacking it it's not make any difference. COOPER: If anything, maybe give it more publicity.

Let's take a look, though...

FREEDMAN: If that's possible.

COOPER: I know. Exactly.

Let's take a look at the list of some of the most commonly banned books that are out there. We're going to put that on the screen.

This is number -- well, five through eight for some reason. "Taming the Star Runner," S.E. Hilton. "Captain Underpants," No. 6.

Now "Captain Underpants." What is that?

FREEDMAN: I brought "Captain Underpants" with me. It's a book that 7 to 10-year-old boys are crazy about it. The subtitle of the one I'm holding is "Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plight of Professor Poopy Pants."

COOPER: Now people -- what? Because the language that people don't like it.

FREEDMAN: Well, bodily functions -- same kind of people who are obsessed we got to protect our children from anything to do with sex and now they also care about bodily functions. They don't want that.

The other thing about this book, though, is it teaches the kids to challenge authority, according to the critics.

I've got an excerpt, which I had not read, I must admit. It's targeted, of course, to 7-years-old. But we're going to put this on the screen.

"On Tuesday, everybody did show up wearing their pajamas. 'Why is everybody picking their noses,' asked Mrs. Fitt. 'B-B-Bubba Hobbba Hob-Hobba-Hobba. Wah-Wah,' said Mr. Krupp."

Interesting selection there.

FREEDMAN: Well, the kids love it. It cracks them up. And Barbara Jenko, the president of the Association of Library Services to Children, she said this is a book hook. This is one of the ones that the kids will read and get them reading this and they will start reading other books that aren't quite as goofy and...

COOPER: And No. 7 on the list, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"...

FREEDMAN: "Huckleberry Finn"....

COOPER: That's often on these list. Why?

FREEDMAN: Well, "Huckleberry Finn" is considered by many the greatest work of fiction in America and American literature. And because of the character, the name of the character is Nigger Jim. There's an allegation of racism, insensitivity.

COOPER: And -- but a lot of teachers use that as a tool for learning to talk about A, the time it was written and also the use of language.

FREEDMAN: And also time to understand what the word meant and how it was used in the context of that and how the kid and Jim had this incredibly important and wonderful relationship and none of the use of the word is tied to the kind of thing that we, you know, find horrifying today.

COOPER: We appreciate you coming in to talk about some of these books. Thank you very much. Maurice Freedman.

FREEDMAN: My pleasure.

COOPER: All right.

FREEDMAN: Take it easy.

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